Cheeni Kizhangu/Sarkkarai Valli Kizhangu-Karuppatti/Sweet Potatoes in Palm Sugar Syrup

 

sweet potato soaked in palm jaggery syrup

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I have very less memories of Sarkkarai Valli Kizhangu or Cheeni Kizhangu – Sweet Potato as a vegetable. But I have evergreen memories of sweet potatoes floating in a tub of Palm syrup in Thoothukudi, my maternal grandmother’s house.

The big chatti or hot vessel filled with sweet aromatic Palm jaggery syrup and the  floating sweet potatoes inside was one of my favorites. Of course, still is. Mildly spiced with dry ginger for balance and added digestion, this delicacy can be had hot, warm or cold.

Cubed or Circled Sweet Potato pieces cooked in Palm Jaggery Syrup is a sweet coated with Divinity. No, it isn’t served for the Gods but the Divinity comes from its soaked flavor. The naturally mildly sweet Sweet Potato dipped in the flavorful Palm Jaggery Syrup offers a unique aroma and taste different from the other well-known sweets of Tamilnadu.

This might be termed as a healthy sweet as there is no frying involved.

 

Why should we stick to Traditional Foods?

 

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Do you believe in  –

 

  • the whole wheat breads of market that offer 50 % refined flour and still take the name ‘whole wheat’?
  • the baked chips with loads of sodium that still claim to be 0% cholesterol?
  • the high sugar/banned low sugar or honey filled granular bars that claim to be health snacks to start the day?
  • the mostly refined ready to eat whole grain cereals that are sent through high heat to be moisture free for longer shelf life?
  • and additionally, do you believe in the never-ending list of hazardous goodies that cheat us in the name of health food?

 

If you don’t believe in the above, then I’d suggest you to try out the traditional recipes of each culture.

Believe me!

These Sweet Potatoes –

  1. cooked in Palm Jaggery
  2. soaked well in the same syrup
  3. not deep-fried
  4. do not possess the minutest droplet of butter, ghee or oil
  5. no added milk or coconut milk
  6. no added cream or coconut cream

– can be claimed fat-free, gluten-free, free from milk and milk products, no allergic nuts involved in making, no soy products and so on.
Fortunately,  there is no claim of traditional sweets to be fat-free – no tagged promises. As there cannot be any food that could be completely fat-free/sugar-free/chemical free/ and to top the list – that is suitable for all. It is for the consumers to identify what suits their family, more importantly what suits their pocket and most importantly what suits their family’s health and well-being. But staying away from products that have higher shelf life and those beautifully arranged in the stores, could definitely be a healthier choice for the family, especially with growing children.

This simple logic has made me believe and rely completely on traditional foods. They don’t stay longer – reason one, we lick the bowls to our heart’s content and then, they have no added preservatives to stay long and tempt us longer. They can be high in calories, high in sugar, high in cholesterol as analyzed by dietitians. But, they are at a comfort kitchen zone where the intolerant levels can be altered.

Hence, while one cannot alter the sugar content of sweet potatoes, feel free to alter the amount of Palm jaggery used in the recipe.

 

Sweet Potatoes and the South East Asian Connection

 

 

I am amazed by the connection of south East Asian cuisine with the cuisine of Tamilnadu. On our visit to Indonesia, I could taste the same Cheeni kizhangu karuppatti in Indonesia, but with the twist of taste with coconut milk. Yummy Treat! The same Sweet Potato in different parts of the world can be used in different ways. But the abundance of Palm and Palm Sugar and Coconut and Coconut Milk has given way to a number of common recipes among the different countries of South-East Asia, Srilanka and Southern India that share sea space. This cuisine connect is also a remarkable proof of the successful maritime trade between Tamilnadu and other South East Asian Countries extending till China, the give and take of several recipes twisted to local tastes.

Here is the name of the delicacies with almost the same preparation. Please correct me for errors.

Indonesian – 

Biji Salak – Sweet Potato Dumplings cooked in Palm Sugar Syrup and flavoured with coconut milk and Pandan (screw pine) leaves and thickened with tapioca flour

Kolak Biji Salak – The above mentioned sweet with the addition of Bananas

Malaysian – 

Bubur Cha Cha – Sweet porridge made with 3 kinds of differently coloured sweet potatoes, yam, tapioca pearls (sago),  bananas and black eyed beans, thickened with tapioca flour and added flavor with coconut milk and Pandan leaves

Singaporean – 

BoBo Cha Cha – Bubur Cha Cha is also called BoBo Cha Cha and made with a mixture of different colored tapioca pearls. http://www.singaporelocalfavourites.com/2010/08/easy-bo-bo-cha-cha-recipe.html

 

Now, to the Tamil Recipe –

Cheeni Kizhangu Karuppatti/ Sweet Potatoes in Palm Jaggery Syrup

 

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Ingredients

  • cheeni kizhangu/sweet potatoes – 1/2 kg
  • karuppatti/palm jaggery – 1/4 kg
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • water – 250 ml and little more for potatoes to float

 

Method of Preparation
1. Wash and peel sweet potatoes

2. Cut them into circles preferably or cubes as per the size of potatoes

 

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3. In a pan, place Palm jaggery and water and heat slightly till jaggery completely dissolves

4. Filter the liquid as Cane or Palm jaggery always consist impurities/mud

5. Take this liquid in a wide and hard bottomed pan and add dry ginger powder and cardamom powder

 

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6. Add the cut sweet potatoes and add little more water if potatoes don’t have enough syrup to float

 

7. Slow cook sweet potatoes in the Palm syrup till done

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8. Pressure cooking would result in mashed potatoes; Slow cooking the pieces in the syrup not only enhances the flavor but also helps in perfectly soft and spoon-able pieces

9. By the time the potatoes are cooked, the syrup would have thickened a bit

10. Yet there would be enough syrup for the sweet potatoes to float in

11. Enjoy this delicious sweet hot or cold.

 

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Note:

  1. If you have access to different colored sweet potatoes, just indulge – do not worry about the color.
  2. If there is no Palm jaggery available, try using powdered Palm sugar available in Thai markets, or use any unrefined cane sugar or jaggery.  No white sugar here please.
  3. If the potatoes are huge in size – slice in halves, if the circles turn out to be too big
  4. If preferred, this sweet can also be converted into a Payasam/Kheer, with the addition of coconut milk (like the Indonesian Biji Sala)
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